<
>

Eric Berry is back practicing, but when will we see him in a game?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs have come to expect the amazing from safety Eric Berry, who in 2015 returned to play only a few months after being diagnosed with cancer and had one of his best NFL seasons.

Still, they have proceeded with caution as Berry works toward playing again. He returned to practice this week for the first time since training camp in August, having missed about 3 1/2 months because of heel soreness.

As with anyone in a similar situation, it might take Berry some time to get back to what he was.

"I can't see anybody walking in the door and just hit the ground running like that," fellow safety Ron Parker said. "He might be a little off at the start, a little step here and there. That's expected from anybody, whether it's him or someone else who's been dealing with an injury that's kept him off the field that long.

"But he's an amazing person, so I wouldn't be surprised if he could pull it off. If anybody can do it, it's him."

Berry appears unlikely to play on Sunday against the Raiders in Oakland. It would be most unusual for a player to practice for one week coming off a long-term injury and play in the first available game.

His return to the lineup is more probable on the following Sunday against the Ravens or in Week 15 against the Chargers.

The Chiefs are planning for an adjustment period once Berry does play. He hasn't been in a game since the season opener last year, when he ruptured an Achilles tendon, ending his season.

"The hardest part is the reaction time," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. "Whether it's Eric or anybody else coming off an injury that's kept him out, he wants to get someplace on the field but he can't initially respond as fast as he's normally used to doing. Whatever triggers that movement or reaction, that's the thing that takes a little bit of time to get back. There's probably little you can do about it but go out there and do it.

"When you're playing a lot, your senses are really keen. That's especially true for a guy like him. He's got such great anticipation and burst. That's just going to be a process, getting that all back."

The Chiefs have seen something similar from Daniel Sorensen, who was their other starting safety when training camp began. Sorensen broke a leg during camp and only recently returned. He has struggled to regain the form he showed before his injury.

"For us to think he'll come back at 100 percent, that's not happening," said defensive backs coach Al Harris, who was speaking of Sorensen but could have been talking about Berry. "He's progressing every day. He's progressing every week. I think he's getting better every day. I think he's getting stronger every day."

The Chiefs have declined to make Berry available for an interview since training camp, but he has been a constant presence at their practice facility during meetings and practices despite the injury. He goes to all the games, home or away.

"He's up here as much as anyone," quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. "He's up here as much as I am. He's up here as much as anybody except Coach [Andy] Reid."

That should help Berry get his game back that much quicker.

"He's taken notes from Day 1 like he was playing that week," Sutton said. "I don't think the knowledge of what we're doing or the positions or the calls will be challenging for him. He understands all of that, knows those well. He's going to know the nuts and bolts of this thing."

Berry's absence started innocently enough. The Chiefs initially called his injury a day-to-day situation, suggesting he would play sooner rather than later.

They also kept him on their active roster rather than put him on the injured reserve list, another hint the Chiefs believed his return was imminent.

It might have taken Berry longer than the Chiefs thought to get to this point, but unless he has a setback, the time for his return appears close.

"I don't worry about him in any of this," Reid said. "He's been around this a long time. He's come back off injuries. He has come back off a life-threatening disease. ... When he feels right, he will be back [in the lineup].

"We're not in a tiddlywink contest. There's a certain amount of pressure that comes with the sport. Whenever you go out there, you've got a certain amount of pressure, but I don't think any more than he normally does. He's too far into it. He's a veteran."